The Atonement or what does it all really mean?

I had the opportunity to teach a lesson this last Sunday about the Atonement to my 12-14 year old class. We had to start out with the basics and I feel it is too good to not share some of it.

First of all, what is it?

Well, we all sin. Either we have in the past or will in the future. It is because we are not perfect and mistakes happen. We are not perfect. We are here to learn that.

We are not able to return to Heavenly Father because of those sins because he cannot be in the presence of sinners.

Therefore, we need someone to atone for our sins. To pay for them so that we can return to Heavenly Father when the time comes.

What kind of person should that be? Well, I found the best description here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/he-lives-all-glory-to-his-name?lang=eng

Richard D. Scott said this of Jesus Christ’s challenges:

First, an enormous sense of responsibility, for He realized that except it be done perfectly, not one of His Father’s children could return to Him. They would be forever banished from His presence since there would be no way to repent for broken laws and no unclean thing can exist in the presence of God. His Father’s plan would have failed, and each spirit child would have been under the eternal control and torment of Satan.

Second, in His absolutely pure mind and heart, He had to personally feel the consequences of all that mankind would ever encounter, even the most depraved, despicable sins.

Third, He had to endure the vicious attack of Satan’s hordes while physically and emotionally pressed to the limit. Then, for reasons we do not fully know, while at the extremity of His capacity, at the time the Savior most needed succor, His Father allowed Him to shoulder the onerous responsibility with only His own strength and capacity.

Wow! Now that we put it this way,  Jesus did do something amazing for us!

Now, can we still sin and be able to enter in the presence of Heavenly Father? No.

So what can we do and how do we learn about it?

We are to repent (see the sin within ourselves and never do it again, doing all within ourselves to repay what we did). That is simple-even the worst sins can be let go.

We learn in going to church, reading our scriptures, listening to Apostles who will teach us, and praying for understanding.

With what Jesus did for us,  is it important for us to do all we can to keep from being part of the pain that he suffered?

Look within ourselves and see what we can do to become better. In doing so, we will be greatly blessed!

What is a testimony?

My definition is that it is a true belief in an idea that should be shared to strengthen it. You can have a Testimony in anything and anyone.

But the one focus that all are concerned with is this:
Who is Heavenly Father?
Who is Jesus Christ?
Who is Joseph Smith?
Do I believe in these people and what they have done for me?
What is the Gospel?
If questioned, can I stand up for these beliefs?
Do I have experiences that will enhance these beliefs and do I have the ability to share these experiences?
When you have the ability to answer these questions to the deepest part of your soul, you have developed a Testimony. If you only have a little bit of a belief, it is still a Testimony. This is when you are to share it with others. Listen to others share their beliefs. Each person has the ability to help strengthen each other and support each other in the time that is used to grow.  If you have a testimony and do nothing with it, it will shrink and die. Treat it like a living object, for that is what a testimony is. If you share it and do everything that you can to help it grow by praying, reading scriptures, and all other experiences that you encourage to come into your life, it will grow.
It is good for a child to listen to their parent’s testimonies. It helps them to know what one is and how to nurture it.

I do remember a time when I was in Alaska and my family was the only ones in our branch. We would have a testimony meeting each first Sunday of the month and we were to share our beliefs. Because there were normally only 4 or 5 of us, we would each have the opportunity to share each time. As a teenager, there were times that I did not want to share. But the hard part was; if I was the last one to speak, all of the others would sit there and stare at me until I said something.
Now, speaking is not the only way to share your testimony. Living it is also a really good way to help it grow. During the same time that I was there in Alaska and this was my experience, I found that I had many opportunities to stray away from the church. I had the opportunities to smoke, drink, have sex, and all other temptations that were available to me at the time. Instead, with the strength of my parent’s testimonies, I found that I was happier if I stood my ground. I found that it was easier to stick to what I believed. I learned that I valued myself too high to give in to these temptations, though some of them were hard to resist because then I would fit in instead of being alone.  Throughout the years afterwards, I found that the experiences that I had up there, I carried with me through the hard-times and the better times. They taught me what I really believed.
Now, I find that many of the youth have been experiencing a small part of what I experienced at their age. This is through an experience called the “Trek”. I have sent 2 of my 3 children through this experience and have found that they found out a lot about themselves through this. For those of my readers who do not know what the “Trek” is, it is an experience that is created for a group of teenagers and leaders. They are to dress up in the pioneer clothing and push a handcart for a number of days. They are split up in families and they are given food to eat. They are not allowed anything that is more than 13 pounds each and they have a strict list of items that they are allowed to carry with them. This means no electronics! At the beginning of the experience, they have adults go through all of their items. If there are any items that are not to be taken with them for the next few days, the items are taken away. I found that there is quite a large pile of items that is left behind with each Trek. After all of the walking and the time spent together, these children have the opportunity to reflect on their lives and what they do have.
When I moved to Alaska, I was the last one packed, so I left quite a lot of my things behind and took very little with me-mostly clothing. All of my other things-things that would have been perfect for a girl, were left behind.  When all possessions are left behind, what do you have left? Your scriptures, your journal, and some clothes to keep you warm.

With this type of experience, you can either turn against the church, or support it. There is no fence-sitting. There is no complacency. You have to choose.
I am truly grateful for these experiences because I know who I am. I know what I believe and I do not waste my years trying to decide what I want to do.  I love the church. I love the gospel and what it means to me. I love Heavenly Father. I love our Savior. I am truly grateful for Joseph Smith and what he had to do to bring the gospel back for each of us.

Shall the youth of Zion faulter?

I am a mother of 3 children. I have done my best to raise them with the gospel. The results are very dramatic!
Let me explain:
I have been an at-home mother during the first part of my children’s lives. I worked at night while they were sleeping and their father was there to take care of them. I worked these jobs so that I could help buffer the family income. A number of years ago, I found that I had to work during the daytime because my children’s father decided to walk another pathway from the one that we were walking together.
The nice thing about this, was that 2 of my 3 children were able to roll with the changes. The one that suffered the most was my youngest child. I will explain later on this.
I was home for most of my first child’s needs. I was able to be with her up until a couple of years into high school. She did not resent me for going to work, but rather, supported the choice. Her heart is strong.
My second child has had it just a little harder. He had times that he had need of his mother at home, and
I was not able to be there for him. We worked through this, but he did understand that I could not be in two places at once. I look into his heart and find that I did not need to worry about him. His spirit is strong.
I held 3 jobs for quite a while and it was difficult! I would be there when they woke up, then I would get home just after they got out of school. Be with them for a few hours, then went to work again. I would come home to a dark home and I would check on my children to see if they were sleeping in their beds.
This was hardest on my youngest son. He needed his mother at home just to be there for him. I had not been able to do this. He showed signs of his need through hiding his feelings. He made friends who were not members of the church and they encouraged him to stray from the pathway. I come home to loud-angry music, him playing on the computer-games that I would never let him play if I was home to control the issue, and having him talk to me in a manner of showing no respect.
I found that I needed to make a choice and I had to give up a job due to an injury, but the benefits are that I was home again. We “Tightened our Belts” even more than we had been so that I could be home for a short time.
I was able to have face-to-face conversations with my children. I was finding that my son is changing his type of music. He was learning that I am putting good influences in his pathway that he either has to reject-which he would never do to my face, or accept what I had to give.
Can he stray? Yes! What could I do about it? I voice my concerns to my Bishop, my home teachers, his teachers, even his home teaching companion. I tried to place good men who would create great influences in his life. Did this worked? Not as well as I hoped when I started communicating my concerns. I find that if I voice my concerns a lot, someone eventually tries to do something. What can be done instead? I am still looking for the good answer, because I know that there are many who are looking for the answer to this question also. So, what can I do? Pray for my child, place good leaders in his way, and hope that he hears what I am trying to say.
President Benson states in a conference talk back in 1971:
Never has the Church had a finer group of young people. They are choice spirits—sent to earth in this most challenging and important period of the world. Charged with the great responsibility of building up the kingdom of God on earth, they have an awesome challenge. This great and momentous responsibility and challenge comes at a most difficult time. Never have the forces of evil been so insidious, widespread, and enticing. Everywhere there seems to be a cheapening, weakening, downgrading of all that is fine, good, and uplifting—all aimed at our youth while many of their parents are lulled away into a false security as they enjoy their comfortable complacency. All is not well in Zion. The inspired Book of Mormon prophets saw this day and, as watchmen on the towers,
issued grave warnings. I quote: “For behold, at that day shall he [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. “And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. …  “Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! “Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! “Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!” (2 Ne. 28:20-22, 24-26.)
Also, he states:
For young people to be in the world but not of the world has never been more difficult than today. But this burden must be shared by the parents.

The family home evening is an important barrier to the works of Satan.

The Mutual program must protect our youth against every evil influence and should fill a vacuum left by rejecting worldly enticements.

And, of course, a great panacea for all problems and personal doubts: prayer—private and family prayer, night and morning.
The critical and complaining adult will be less effective than the interested and understanding. And love and understanding are only effective when they are genuine. And to be genuine they must be motivated by love. We must love our young people, whether they are in righteousness or in error. In this way we can give them a chance to discern and to learn. But we must also give them a fair choice. Today many are not succeeding.    End.

Now my children are good- not perfect-young adults. They look for the good in those around them. They encourage the good and try to help those who are hurting and in pain. Because I see this, I feel that I have succeeded in being a good mom. I do not “sit on my laurels”, but continue to try to be the good mom, example and someone they can come to when they need a confidante.
My recommendation is to look around at each individual youth and see beyond the surface. See if there is a way to help that youth keep to the strength and testimony that they carry in their hearts. Be that
person that they can look up to. Help them before they are on their own and need to make those hard decisions that will affect their lives. We can do this for all youth, not just the ones in our family.

Love them.

How do we show love?

Another foster child that we had and I can remember very little of was a boy from Alaska. He was an American Indian who’s family were having difficulties.

One day, he was in trouble and mother had him sitting in the living room while she sat in the rocker rocking quietly. When my father came home from work, he saw what was happening and noticed that her knuckles were white, so he told us to all leave and make some orange juice in the kitchen.

My father then calmed her down and then went to talk with the boy. The boy wanted to understand why he was not beaten. He felt that if he was in trouble, he should be beaten. Did they not love him? My parents then told him that it was because they loved him that they did not beat him.

My mother had the experience of being spanked with willow switches that she had to pull off of the tree herself, when she began to have children, she promised herself that she would use her parents as the example as to what not to do. She did do her best and because of it, we do have love for her.

When this young boy was taken away from us and returned to his family, he ran away to came back to us. He was caught before he reached us. A second time, he ran away again. This time, he was hit by a car trying to get back to us. Our family truly loved this boy and had hoped to be able to give him the love that he had been craving while growing up.

Judge not

Ok, since the world is focusing on judging everyone for every little thing recently, I find this quite a lot frustrating!

I learned a long time ago not to judge anyone. I have a very colorful background and so I have learned to see the judgements of others and let them roll off my back like water falling off of Teflon.

I was married for the 4th time 2 1/2 years ago.

The first one decided to take a different path than the one I was on. He decided that we did not deserve to live and that we were bad parents, so we needed to all die. He even was on the phone calling around for a gun in the presence of our children while I was at church choir practice. After packing all of his things and then telling him to decide to be a part of our family or get out, he left.

The second one was all about eating, sleeping and bedroom experiences. He did not even talk with my children when in the same building with them.

The third used me to get a green card and was gone 2 days after receiving it. He was dating online and when asked why, he said that he was looking for another wife for when our marriage failed. Everything was all about him. He repeated the same kind of life with his next wife and when she contacted me, I guided her to what I understood. She and I are actually good friends now.

My fourth is the best! We work hard to make this marriage work. We do almost everything together. We always consider each other’s feelings and always do what we can to keep each other’s happiness in the forefront. I have been a member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints all of my life. He has been a member for the last almost 3 years. Not because I pushed him, but he decided it for himself. I made sure of that! We have goals that we make together. No, we do not have all of the same tastes,  but that is what makes our lives interesting.

In our branch, we are truly diversified. It depends on the mood of the week it is as to if we have more whites or colors in our congregation. The only one that we have one of is a Hawaiian and we only remember because instead of saying “Good Morning”, she says, “Aloha” to us.

Now, here is something to think about: My husband is African American. Black. I am White. We have no issues concerning color. But, it is interesting to see reactions in the world we are currently living in. We live in the Northern part of St Louis. It is very interesting because very few white people live in this particular neighborhood. I go shopping in stores where I am definitely a minority. I have been pulled over 5 times since moving here over a year ago because the police want to know what a white woman is doing with a black man in our neighborhood. The last time I was pulled over, they actually admitted that they did not care about minor infractions, but were looking for bigger ones and then proceeded to ask me if I had ever been arrested. Of course not! But they felt the need to ask…

My daughter is a drill sergeant for the Army. She married a guy that is about 7 years younger than I am. He is older than my husband who is 10 years younger than me. Yes, it is a little bit different than normal, but you know what? This works for all of us. We are all happy in our relationships.

My middle child is gay. He believes in the gospel, but because of opinions of other not-enlightened family members, they chased him away instead of loving him for being him. The church states that it is ok to have the feelings, just do not act upon them. I have the paperwork to prove it but these family members are only thinking of one side of the sin-the act. So, I give my son the unconditional love that he needs and he brings light to those around him.

My youngest son went the way of drugs and the lifestyle that surrounded it for a while. He is pulling himself out of the messes he created and is doing a wonderful job with what he has. I wish that I could help him more, but he just wants someone to hear him, nothing else. I hear him.

Now, with just that much in my background, do you think that I judge? I find I cannot because it hurts those I make those types of decisions about as well as myself.

I learned to love unconditionally. To do my best to open my heart to all around me. Ok, so I may still have a lot to work on, but I find I now have friends from almost all walks of life. I accept them for who they are, not what they may have challenging them.

My life is not perfect. I am not perfect-yet. But is that not what we are all trying to become? If not, what are we doing instead? Is it healthy for us and those around us? What can we do to change? Do we need help to achieve it? Who can we turn to?

That last question is why I am LDS. It fits me. I use the lessons I learn to become a better person. To help others to become better as well-if they want to. It gives me a pathway that in my heart feels right.

Primary, growing up with only brothers and being me

When I was little, we had an activity that met on Wednesdays after school. It was called Primary. This was where we-as girls- wore dresses to school so that we could go to church after. We would get together and play on the lawn if the weather was good and inside if the weather was not so good. We would then meet in the chapel to sing primary songs and to hear a short lesson in the gospel. Then we would separate into our classes-separated by age to learn a longer lesson about the gospel. A lot of the times, we spent some of our time creating crafts.

One day, we were going to primary class and I remember that I was next to the outside door of the car(we had a family with 5 children, so with the bench seat, we were squished in), and somehow the door opened while we were moving. I did not have a seatbelt on because we did not have to have any at that time, and so I grabbed onto the door and was skinning my knee on the pavement before my mother stopped the car and then she helped me back into it and then continued on our journey to the church.

I remember being quite scared when this happened. But fear was not one of those feelings that I had too often when I was young. I accepted all challenges. I did my best to keep up with my brothers, and was always getting into trouble.

I was what you called a Tomboy with long, straight, blonde hair.

My mother told me that I never cried when I was a little girl until I had a sliver in my leg that was really quite large. I hardly ever cried afterwards because it showed weakness in the family and we were not weak!

I had no sisters, so to be busy doing “girly” things was not encouraged. I biked, wrestled with my brothers, played games with them, and had only a few dolls-which were loved, but quickly put away as things. They never took the center of my life.  I never really cared about makeup, the latest in clothes, keeping up with the current fashions.

Because of the way I was brought up, I could never understand the personalities of women who felt fulfilled making the “Perfect Dinner”.

To me, being with people and exchanging ideas made more sense. Doing things to improve life on a large scale was and still is my perspective. What can I do to make life better for myself and everyone around me has always been my focus.

Because of this, sometimes I make people uncomfortable. They wish that I could be more gentle and instead, I am more forthright. Instead of playing mental games to soothe and confuse, I focus on the truth and the best way to make good things happen.

I have friends without number. Those who love me back are the ones who accept me for who I am and know me to be quite open. I am blessed and I am very thankful that even though my growing up may have been a little bit different, it taught me a lot of what is real.

I wish that I had these ideas when I was growing up!

Dresses 'n Messes

For those that don’t know by now, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or a Mormon. I believe in living prophets. Why would God have had prophets all through the ages, and not have them now? They speak to us, guiding us on how to raise our families through the craziness of this world. Their words makes sense! This weekend, I get the incredible opportunity to sit in my living room, turn on my TV, and listen to their counsel (we call it General Conference). It’s the most inspiring weekend!

Because I have a large audience who also believes how I do, and many of us are young moms, trying to instill this belief in our children, I like to share ideas to help keep our children engaged.

With that being said, Emily is here as my guest today, sharing a fun tradition…

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What I have taught my children.

marysilverwhite

This is near and dear to my heart…This one is very difficult at this time for many of us. It is the ability to work hard. It is near to my heart because there were a couple of things that I was taught when I was a child:

1. No play until the chores were finished.

My mother wrote long lists for each of us kids to do each Saturday. This was beyond the basic chores that we did each day after school. It was frustrating, but we worked hard for a couple of hours (yes, she truly detailed each item for each room so that we had no excuse to miss anything) and then the rest of the day was ours to play with. This experience taught me to focus on taking care of the needs of my family before we even would consider the wants. Ok, so my…

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A flower girl

My parents were always giving everything that we had to give to other people. They even took in foster children to help those children have a better chance at life.

We had a girl that lived with us for a short time. I believe her name was Sylvia She was about 18 when I met her and I worshiped her because she was so in control of herself. She had a series of books that I loved to look at, and she gave me one to treasure.

We did not have a church building at that time, it was still being built, so we met in the upstairs and back of a department store in the town.

When Sylvia was married, we held the wedding in the department store.  I was her flower girl. I was dressed in a little white lacy dress and had a little dark-red velvet muff to put my hands in. There were flowers pinned to the top of the muff to make it look right.

We were to go down the staircase slowly and I remember waiting for my cue, but did not hear it, someone pushed me and I almost fell down the staircase.

When we were all lined up in front of the branch president, I did not like the man that Sylvia was marrying, so I would stand between them trying to keep them apart. The people behind us were laughing, but they were trying to not let it upset the ceremony.

I know that I made the wedding difficult for Sylvia, but I am sure that it was all about a 4 year old little girl who for a short time, had a big sister and all of a sudden, that big sister was leaving.  I had always hoped that Sylvia would remember me with fond thoughts.

Mrs White, the pears and the valentine’s box

When I was a little girl between the ages of 4 and 7, I lived with my family in a big house which was across the street from some railroad tracks. We had a cherry tree, a walnut tree, roses blooming near the fence, a chicken house in the back yard, a huge hydrangea bush growing next to the house(I always called it the popcorn ball tree and loved it!).

During the time I was growing up, we were able to roam around the neighborhood without parents getting upset from not knowing where we were. As long as when they hollered for us and we answered, we were close enough.

I had met our neighbor 2 houses down. Her name was Mrs. White. I had always thought that the name White was such an unusual name to me. It was so simple and easy to remember-which mine was not.  She was alone and (from my point of view) a very small and old woman. She had white hair and always wore those no-shaped dresses that were loose and always looked square on a woman. She had a pear tree growing in her yard. I could smell the fruit ripening and was always drawn to see if I could have some of them. If she was there, she always let me have some because I asked nicely.

One day, she invited me into her home. It was very quiet in there (especially for a girl who had 4 brothers and parents at home-it was always a good noisy at the house). She took me to her kitchen table and I spotted a valentine’s heart shaped box with ribbons and an artificial flower pasted on top. To me, it looked beautiful! I told her so, and to my delight, she let me have it.

I kept that box for many years. It held a little girl’s treasures and dreams. When the box disintegrated, I kept the flower and the ribbons until one day, I felt I had outgrown the memory.

Now that I am much older and have seen many boxes and eaten many pears, I remember that wonderful little old lady who was willing to give something just to see the light in a little girl’s eyes.

There were times I wondered who had given her the box. Who had cherished her. I regret that I am unable to go back and ask her about her life, to become a true friend. But I do know, that while I was there, I always felt welcomed in her home(it also did not hurt to go get a pear now and then as a treat).